Plane panel that tore off Alaska Airlines flight found in teacher's backyard

A teacher in Oregon found the plane panel that blew off an Alaska Airlines flight in his backyard on Sunday. The nightmarish mishap, which occurred on Friday, left a gaping hole next to an empty seat on the flight, forcing the plane of 171 passengers along with a flight crew of six to return to Portland. (Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured according to reports.)

When the teacher, identified only as "Bob," discovered the panel, known as a "door plug," he immediately sent two photos of it to the National Transportation Safety Chair safety board.

"We are really pleased that Bob found this," NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said. "He took a picture — I can just see the outside of the door plug from the pictures, the white portions, we can't see anything else but we're going to go pick that up and make sure that we begin analyzing it."

From NBC Bay Area:

Investigators will examine the plug, which is 26 by 48 inches (66 by 121 centimeters) and weighs 63 pounds (28.5 kilograms), for signs of how it broke free.

Homenday also revealed Alaska Airlines had restricted the aircraft from long flights over water so the plane "could return very quickly to an airport" after a warning light that could have indicated a pressurization problem lit up on three different flights.

Homendy cautioned that the pressurization light might be unrelated to Friday's incident in which a plug covering an unused exit door blew off the Boeing 737 Max 9 as it cruised about three miles (4.8 kilometers) over Oregon.

The warning light came on during three previous flights: on Dec. 7, Jan. 3 and Jan. 4 — the day before the door plug broke off. Homendy said she didn't have all the details regarding the Dec. 7 incident but specified the light came on during a flight on Jan. 3 and on Jan. 4 after the plane had landed.

At least two cell phones were also found, one which was somehow still "in good condition" after falling 16,000 feet.